ROCHESTER, N.Y. — You can feel the spirit of George Eastman in Antonio Perez’s office.
A picture of Eastman, who founded Kodak in 1880, sits among the current CEO’s collection of family photos. The outer areas of Perez’s office, built and first inhabited by Eastman about a century ago, include some of Kodak’s Oscar and Emmy awards, along with a collection of historic photos. A large portrait of Eastman, who died in 1932, hangs near the entrance.
Perez’s surroundings serve as a constant reminder of Kodak’s hallowed history in the print and movie film industries — and of the pressure he is under to revive the ailing company.
Kodak emerged from bankruptcy protection Tuesday vastly different from the company of old. Gone are the cameras and film that made it famous. The company hopes to replace them with new technologies such as touch screens for smartphones and smart packaging embedded with sensors. Over Perez’s desk hang pictures depicting Kodak’s future — including one of the company’s ultra-fast commercial inkjet printer, the Prosper Press.
Kodak said its old stock is canceled. Creditors are getting stock in the restructured company.
Eastman Kodak Co., credited with popularizing photography at the start of the 20th century, started to struggle toward the end of the century, first with Japanese competition and later when it failed to react quickly enough to the shift from film to digital photography.
Perez was appointed CEO in 2005. Under his leadership, the Rochester, N.Y., company had restructured its money-losing film business by 2007. The company closed 13 factories, shuttered 130 film-processing labs and eliminated 50,000 workers around the world at a cost of about $3.4 billion.
The restructured company’s operations are split between a trio of businesses: packaging, graphic communications and functional printing. All three are rooted in Kodak’s commercial printing technology.
One of the company’s biggest projects in development is a cheaper touch screen for smartphones and tablets. New technology could allow the screens to be flexible and foldable, allowing them to be installed on a host of new objects.